Frequently Asked Questions about Community Cats and Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return

What is a "community cat"?
"Community cat" is a term for the free-roaming cats in an area. These cats can be feral cats who may never have had an owner or more socialized, stray cats who have been abandoned by an owner or are lost from their homes. Community cats vary in behavior from being socialized with humans to being completely unsocialized and unapproachable.

What is a feral cat? A feral cat is any cat who is too poorly socialized to be handled and cannot be placed into a typical home.  Most feral cats live in groups known as colonies near homes or businesses where people often feed them or there is another food source.

What is Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR)?
The only humane and effective way of managing community cats is through a process called Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR). Cats in a colony are trapped in a humane trap, taken to a clinic where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and then returned to their colony. This process improves the quality of life for the cats, reduces their numbers by eliminating litters of kittens, and reduces the nuisance behaviors related to breeding activity. Very young kittens that are found in a colony are removed, socialized and adopted into homes. These kittens should be spayed or neutered, prior to being placed into their new homes, to ensure they will not reproduce.

What is a managed colony?
Community cat colonies require ongoing care for best results. A community colony caregiver monitors the colony for newcomers who are either born into the colony, abandoned there, or wander in from nearby. All new, unsterilized cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear-tipped and returned to the colony. The colony caregiver also provides continued food, water and shelter to all colony cats. A caregiver will watch the colony for any sick or injured cats and any new litters of kittens, which should be removed for adoption.

What is an ear-tip?
An ear tip involves the removal of approximately 3/8 inch of the tip of the cat's left ear, in a straight line, while the cat is under anesthesia. This mark, which can be viewed at a distance, is the universal sign that the cat has been spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and is part of a TNR program.

Where do feral cats come from?
Community cats are often the offspring of pet cats who were lost or abandoned and had not previously been spayed or neutered. These kittens, if they survive, will become feral without early socialization with people. Without spay/neuter, they will grow up, reproduce, and continue the cycle. Female cats can reproduce two to three times a year. Since cats can become pregnant as early as four to five months of age, the number of cats in a colony rapidly increases, unless the cats are spayed or neutered.

What should I do about any community cats in my neighborhood or where I work?
The best way to help these cats is to humanely trap them, take them to your veterinarian or a spay/neuter clinic for surgery and vaccinations and return them to their home territory. By doing so, you will immediately stabilize the number of cats in your neighborhood or workplace by preventing new litters of kittens.

What’s wrong with just leaving the cats alone?
A colony of unaltered, community cats can cause multiple problems including: an increasing number of cats; frequent and loud noise from fighting and mating behaviors; strong odors from unneutered male cats spraying to mark their territory; urine and feces; and the potential for suffering of sick and injured kittens and adult cats. In addition, large numbers of kittens and adult cats from unsterilized community colonies end up in animal shelters, where they are usually "euthanized", as they are unadoptable into traditional homes.

Why shouldn’t I just trap and remove the cats from an area?
Simply trapping and removing cats has been proven to be ineffective in reducing a feral cat colony population. Community cats live in a certain location because they have found a source of food and shelter. If the cats are removed from an area, other cats from surrounding, unmanaged colonies move in to take advantage of the newly available resources and start the cycle of reproducing and nuisance behavior all over again. As these cats tend to have more kittens that survive to adulthood because of the reduced competition for resources, the population rapidly regains its former size, or may actually increase.

Can’t I just move the cats to a different location?
Relocating community cats is a difficult, time-consuming and often ineffective process that should be attempted only when absolutely necessary for the cats' safety. Moving cats from one colony to another colony or location is very stressful to the cats and is rarely successful.  Allowing the cats to remain in their home colony through a TNVR program is the most humane, effective and simple approach. It enables care for the largest number of cats with the fewest resources.

If I surrender trapped feral cats to an animal shelter, will the shelter find them a home?
Shelters cannot provide an appropriate or humane environment for community cats who are unacceptably stressed in the shelter environment. Unsocialized community cats cannot be adopted into conventional homes nor socialized in the shelter environment. Therefore the only realistic option for shelters is usually to "euthanize" the cats.

Where do I purchase humane traps?
Traps can be purchased locally at feed and farm stores. and through various online resources. Tomahawk Live Traps and Tru-Catch Traps offer traps specifically designed for use with community cats.

Where can I learn more about trapping and TNVR?
For extensive information about community cats and TNVR, please visit the "Resource Library" section of this site: